Nearly four out of five small business owners say rising energy prices are stalling their growth, says a new report.
The quarterly survey, conducted by Harris Interactive and released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, asked businesses how much they agreed with the statement "Higher energy prices pose an immediate threat to the success of my business." Forty-one percent said they strongly agreed, and 37 percent said they somewhat agreed, for a total of 78 percent. (Just 4 percent strongly disagreed, 7 percent somewhat disagreed, and 11 percent were neutral.)
Gas prices as small business owners' top concern more than doubled, hitting 24 percent last month from just 10 percent three months ago, according to the U.S. Chamber Small Business Outlook Survey.
The nationwide average gas price for regular is $3.91, up $0.07 from a month ago and up $0.08 from a year ago.
The survey also found that concerns about overregulation are the highest in a year, with more than half of businesses (52 percent) citing it as the top threat to their businesses' survival. That's up nine percentage points since last June.
The survey found that small-business confidence grew in the first quarter–there's been a 7 percent increase since January–but that firms are still not hiring. Just 22 percent plan to add jobs in the coming months, and 30 percent laid off workers in the past year.
“This survey confirms that slow gains in economic growth are being undermined by uncertainty over rising gas prices, an onslaught of pending regulations, and stalled pro-growth bills in Congress,” says Martin Regalia, the Chamber’s chief economist. “To deliver long-term confidence to small businesses, Washington should act to provide certainty and enact regulatory reform that will boost their ability to grow.”
Other report findings: Nearly all small businesses (97 percent) said a presidential candidate's support for the free enterprise system was important, with 84 percent saying it was "very important." Almost as many small firms (92 percent) think it should be the business community leading economic recovery, as opposed to the federal government (8 percent).
Entrepreneurs think all the lawmakers in Washington are problematic, but they've zeroed in on Democrats: Close to half of respondents approve of the job the House Republican Majority is doing; just 8 percent approve of the Democratic majority in the Senate. Just 16 percent of small businesses approve of the job Obama is doing.
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